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4xi Perspectives: WORKTECH20 North America

Simon Elliot

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

4xi Global Work Experience Consulting & Solutions

18th October, 2020: Last week WORKTECH20 North America held its first virtual conference with 500 attendees joining from organizations across the Americas and around the world, and what a super line up of interesting speakers, topics, and attendees.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, PwC, Avuity, Genentech, Intel, Locatee, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, Netflix, VECOS, Liquidspace, Smarten Spaces, Global Workplace Analytics, Ford Motor Company, SoftBank Robotics, LifeWorks Restaurant Group, WeWork, Condeco, WellnessCoach, Nasdaq , Saltmine, Woodall, Irisys, Allwork, Gensler, M Moser Associates and EPOS to name but a few were either speaking or in attendance - thank you to all the sponsors, speakers, contributors, and attendees.

Here's what one first time attendee said of the event:

“I enjoyed the level of thinking that it provided, more at the strategic level and less of the tactical. I also liked the ability to choose which topics might fit with what I was interested in and the ability to move between the east and west stage.”

Key Takeaways and Themes

COVID-19: An Accelerator of Change

Many of the issues we have seen over the past 8 months or so existed before the global pandemic. Real estate was under utilized, some say less than 50%. The commute was a major bug bear and a reason to take a job or leave. Video technology already existed but has been catapulted into everyone’s personal and professional lives. The need to expand the work experience to an evermore dispersed workforce, now an absolute reality for organizations. The global pandemic has also exposed and accelerated pre-existing conditions in sectors such as hospitality, leisure, retail, and restaurants around the world.

Employee Safety has Changed its Focus

No longer just about risk factors and accident mitigation, employee safety is now much more about providing safe environments where occupants of buildings, employees, wherever they are, can be safe and stay healthy from less obvious and visible risks to their health.

Dave Santo from Siemens talked about air ionization and how that linked with other innovations and visible measurements can be a reassurance to occupants re-entering buildings wherever they may be.

Health, Wellness & Well-being

Always a factor, but the pandemic has not only accentuated the focus but also the risk. As people work from home, deal with the crisis, trying to keep in employment in the shadow of global layoffs, as they try and balance their home working environment, deal with a new way of working, the intensity of video conferencing, and in many cases working longer than ever before.

Sara Escobar of Netflix, Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics talked about coming to work as yourself, about mental health and wellbeing, about managing issues like depression that may also have been accentuated during these unprecedented times.

Those with the luxury of a dedicated home office, or even a spare bedroom are in a much better position than those that don’t have this, working at the kitchen table, with children, pets, interruptions making the experience even more stressful.

Corporate Loneliness

This phenomenon existed even pre-COVID-19. Implants in new metro cities reliant upon their work for the foundation of their social network. Cut off, alone, in their expensive apartment that they may struggle to afford with isolation and the fear of layoffs looming.

For many, this has brought mental health and wellbeing issues to the forefront and for millions now a reality.

“I find the WORKTECH events head and shoulders above anything else. The community, network, the insights, quality of the content and the attendees. This is not a ‘trade event’ but a serious gathering of workplace professionals dedicated and committed to transforming the work experience for GOOD! ”

Dr. Douglas Terrier, Chief Technologist at NASA talked about the ultimate innovation machine and how many of the technologies that have been developed for space exploration are now ubiquitous today, and with many more to come. How designing the ultimate workplace in space has lessons for us all as we try to do the same on terra firma. Then, Ebbie Wisecarver from WeWork sharing her own insights on reinventing the workspace of the future.

Phil Kirchner, Future of Work Consultant led a panel of Terry Raby, Global Workplace Design at Facebook, Brett Hautop, VP Workplace Experience at LinkedIn, and Tracie Kelly, Head of Workplace & Real Estate, Uber and discussed their approach to what the new future might be.

Invent the Future, not Re-tool the Past
What do employees really want, need, where they work, how they work, how they can be their very best? These key questions are top of mind as these leading workplace experience organizations consider and design the future of work.
Magnetizing the Work Experience
No doubt the world has changed, and post COVID-19, it is unthinkable that companies or governments will introduce any mandate to return to the office. They say it takes 66 days on average to change behaviors and habits forever. We are now way past that milestone, and the future physical work experience has to be much more compelling than ever before. A place where people choose to come, not have to.
Food & Hospitality Experiences as a Draw
A seamless commute, arrival, meet and greet, room booking, meet with colleagues, friends, project partners. The experience is going to be the draw of the future and not the space itself. The overall experiential proposition will need to be elevated, and likely with different economic models, more subsidies, lower volumes, maybe even more free amenities in a smaller footprint to attract the now inevitably, and permanently dispersed workforce of the future.

Bruce Daisley, Author of The Joy of Work & Eat Sleep Work Repeat and former VP for EMEA at Twitter had an energetic and inspiring session that touched on a couple of very interesting topics:

Redundant Real Estate
As inevitably corporate demand for real estate subsides, and at the same time a potential glut of retail real estate, what becomes of all that square footage of space to avoid mothballed Class A buildings and shopping malls turn into ghettos. It is true that some of this space could be converted to warehousing for local deliveries, even ghost kitchens, but there is a lot of foot print to repurpose.
"Hotelification" of the Work Experience
Is the future work experience equivalent to that of a hotel experience? If so, what start level of workplace do you want to be, or need to be? But then, what do you do with the potentially redundant space that you may or may not be able to offload? What about literally a hotel, a conference and events center, office space for nominated non-profits, vocation, higher education, even housing?
“Networking was fantastic! I actually met more people in the virtual setting than I have in the live conferences.”

All in all, WORKTECH20 North America was another great event, albeit in a different format but the overall feedback, evidenced by the attendance and participation was very positive indeed and we look forward to welcoming you to the next event.

For further details of the benefits of joining the WORKTECH Academy, then please feel free to reach out. If you attend any WORKTECH event then you are already signed up as an Individual Member but there are also other membership opportunities including Community Member, Corporate, and Global Partner.

“Come lead the conversation and shape the future of how we'll work tomorrow.”

For further information about the different membership levels of WORKTECH Academy, request a Membership Pack HERE.


4xi Global Workplace Consulting & Solutions provides a range of services to support Corporations, Service Providers, Innovators, and Accelerators to navigate the world of work. Inspiring the future of work, together.

4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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